Much of the nationwide research and consultation focused on what children wanted from their football experience.
For many adults the findings were illuminating. Children cited fun, enjoyment and being with their friends as more important than winning medals or finishing top of the table.
Although competition and challenge are important, and will always remain so as long as children play against each other, the length of time a result is deemed significant is different in a child’s world than that of an adult. As managers and coaches fret about the morning game, most children have already moved on, ready to embrace whatever fun or enjoyment the afternoon holds.
This anecdotal feedback was found to be in contrast to the current competition model which is based on the adult season running from September to April.
New proposals encourage three parts to a season with varied activities in each period. This will include focused periods of development matches (no results recorded and a focus on learning and enjoyment), interspersed with competition. Importantly there will be no league tables or recording of results for players aged U7s to U11s.
Learning and enjoyment is the aim rather than the constant pressure which accompanies weekly competition. It is hoped that these changes will also help create a better touchline environment amongst spectators and parents, small pockets of which still insist on placing undue pressure on young players.
New competition guidelines allow flexibility for football organisers and a creative approach to running competition. By grouping teams together in innovative ways, more teams will have the opportunity of success.